The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Bioenergy

And how to tell the difference

Rosemary Barnes
Climate Conscious

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An Australian forest (image via Canva)

I got approached recently to work on a bioenergy technology product. And I had reservations about whether I wanted to since I have seen so much coverage about the environmental impact of large-scale bioenergy projects like wood pellet power plants and the bioethanol industry. But sustainable forestry advocates say that a sustainably harvested forest can actually absorb more CO2 than it would if the forest were left in its virgin state. And then further complicating the matter is the fact that biomass currently covers 10 percent of the global energy supply and most of that is used in developing countries for cooking and heating. And so I felt I needed to dig deeper into the issues so I could make a decision about whether the specific product I was being asked to work on would be a net benefit or net harm to the environment. This article is the result of my research and philosophical thoughts on this complex topic.

From cow dung fires for cooking to wood pellet-fuelled power stations: bioenergy is not just one thing. (Composite image by author via Canva)

Bioenergy in its simplest definition is using plant matter to provide energy, either by burning it for heat or to power a generator, by converting sugars or fats to bioethanol or biodiesel, or digestion or…

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Rosemary Barnes
Climate Conscious

Clean technology development consultant | “Engineering with Rosie” on YouTube bit.ly/3hVkrLb